Myself, Poseur and Richard put our heads together for some final discussion of Saturday's game.
I'll start with a simple question: offensively, what worked? What didn't?
Toliver in open space. Man, once he got over his pretty ugly case of the dropsies in the first quarter, Toliver absolutely torched their secondary. He just juked his man and then he was gone. The option pitch to Keiland also looked like a pretty good play. Jefferson is pretty good running the football, and having the speed on the outside made that play even more threatening. Any play that highlighted LSU's offensive speed usually worked.
What didn't work? Running up the middle. Crowton did it over and over again, trying to establish the run on the logical premise that our big offensive line would eventually wear down their defense. It never happened. Then again, since the game was never nail-bitingly close, there was never any need to open up the offense. It's hard to sit here and criticize an offense for failing to use its assets when the team scored 31 points and the game was generally under control throughout.
Most importantly, when the offense needed points, it marched down the field with relative ease and got them. After some early struggles, Jefferson looked pretty poised in the pocket, making plays when he had to. LaFell had a quiet night, but then made the game sealing TD catch. It was an underwhelming night, but at the same time, it's hard to argue the offense was anything but effective.
Toliver looked potentially dominant, and I thought Jefferson did a great job of keeping his composure. I called it last week, total vanilla -- which I can't see lasting all season, given what we've seen in the past. It almost seemed like this game was seen as a glorified scrimmage, which is disappointing after all the talk of making a statement. That's only compounded when you see that this game was Washington's Super Bowl.
I like it that LSU made the effort to develop a good no-huddle package, but I hope it's not becoming a fixture. It didn't seem to work all that well. And Russell Shepard needs to start getting on the field but quick -- Jefferson will never hold up this year taking a pounding like that.
Whenever we ran option, it worked. When we went to our outside receivers, it worked. When we tried to push their front seven around, it didn't work.
Needless to say, this was Toliver's best game as a Tiger. 117 yards receiving? Two long touchdowns? The game-winning points? Great. Cut out the drops and he's in serious business.
Defensively, I hate to disagree with Poseur but our defensive line got serious penetration in the running game. Washington used counter plays to maximum effectiveness, and we never adjusted to the fact that they had a mobile QB in the game. We got out of rushing lanes too frequently and couldn't catch up to him. I can't point out anyone who played poorly on defense, though Chad Jones must have outfitted himself with a Romulan cloaking device before the game started. It seems like everyone made a play and everyone gave up a play, except Patrick Peterson who was awesome. I think we did better when we went to a man-to-man scheme, as we seemed to never let anyone get open except when they sat in a seam in a zone. Even a couple of the bigger pass plays happened when we had good coverage.
A couple of defenders had their moments -- Drake Nevis, Perry Riley, Jacob Cutrera, Josh Downs -- but that's just it. It was just moments. Nothing sustained.
Doug Moreau made this point on the post-game radio show and I think it's very true. When it came down to those last few seconds on the final drive -- Washington no longer had any chance at winning, but they wanted that touchdown. Clearly, they wanted it more than LSU wanted to stop them. And I think you can translate that to the game at large. LSU basically slept walk through this thing, on both sides of the ball. Blame it on the late start/jet-lag, blame it on the differences in prep time -- there's a Jamie Foxx joke here but I'll spare you -- but LSU didn't show up for this the way any of us are accustomed to seeing -- even taking last year into the equation.
The Vanderbilt game now becomes a statement game out of necessity.
I agree about that last drive. It was the whole game in the nutshell. Simply being competitive was a victory for Washington, and they drove down the field to score a meaningless touchdown that not even the gamblers cared about. Then they celebrated and ran around like they had won the Rose Bowl. Hey, good for them. LSU looked disappointed but, you're right, that last drive didn't mean a blessed thing to LSU.
A win is a win. Particularly road wins. Washington can get all the moral victories they want and I don't really give a damn. The only victory that actually matters is the real one -- the one the Tigers got. For all of the mopiness among the Tiger faithful, this was a win. And wins matter. Our program is past the point where we stop caring about moral victories. Since we don't care about moral victories, I'll do the program the courtesy of not caring about "moral losses." Sure, the Tigers slept through the game, but whenever the Huskies even remotely threatened, LSU responded. I don't think this can be said enough, Washington never had the ball in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to even tie the game. This wasn't a blowout, but it was a comfortable win.
However, you can't turn it on and off as the season goes on. That is a recipe for disaster. But for one game against a team that LSU clearly had a significant talent edge over? Why the heck not? Particularly since it worked. LSU didn't care about that last drive because it only mattered to Washington. And why should it matter to LSU? It doesn't make the win count any less if it was by 8 or 15. LSU only cared about one thing -- winning the game. Leave the statements for teams that care about things other than wins. UW can have their statement, I'll take the W.
With the fan base seemingly in a state of panic, are you really worried? Thoughts about what is to come?
I am definitely worried. Frankly, that game didn't go anything like we hoped, and there are things going on that have to be worrisome. We could not do to Washington the sorts of things we expect and hope to do to Georgia, Florida, and others, such as run power football with Charles Scott. We also weren't able to stop an efficient and accurate passing game.
That said, it's not panic time either. "Panic time" can describe Georgia, who actually lost. We have a long way to go, but we don't play a really dangerous opponent for a little while yet. We have some time to work out the kinks and figure out why our offensive line couldn't get any drive. We just have to hope we don't have a slip-up that leads to an actual loss, such as could happen next week against Vandy.
I'm definitely concerned. I thought the team was going to play a lot better than it did. We went into this season with a lot of questions and we are really no closer to having any of the answer. The fact that this team did not come out with a gigantic chip on its shoulder is a concern to me. As is the fact that the defense looked like it couldn't tackle anyone last night.
But I'm nowhere near panic. Concern is a far cry from the total meltdown that is still going on at a certain LSU message board. You would think we lost by 20, reading some of the posts from the more myopic of the Tiger faithful. There were plenty of positives from the game, particularly in the fact that whenever Washington got close, LSU broke out of its funk and out points on the board.
And who isn't concerned right now? Ohio St. almost lost to Navy. Hell, the entire Big 10 struggled. Georgia lost. The ACC got punched in the mouth. Ole Miss struggled to put away Memphis. Oklahoma lost to BYU. Outside of the teams who played directional schools or FCS teams, who looked great? Maybe Bama. Oklahoma State is probably pretty happy. Mizzou is feeling great. But that's about it. You play a team with a pulse in the first week, chances are you're not going to be entirely happy with the performance. I'm concerned, but I'm not ready to hit the panic button.
I think Poseur sums it up. Few teams REALLY played all that well -- including Ole Miss on Sunday. I don't want to say these things or the trip, distance, time, etc...excuse anything, but they are valid factors that have to be considered.
People have had such an eye on this season as one that will answer a lot of questions. And maybe we shouldn't have expected one game to answer all of them, but it definitely wasn't too much to ask to come away from an opener against an 0-12 team with at least SOME idea of what we'll be in for this season. Instead we got what I imagine a scrimmage would have looked like if they opened it to the public.
I've always been big on bypassing the panic button and letting things play out over the course of the season. But if LSU can't run the ball with some degree of power this week, or allows boatloads of yards again, that's not a good sign. The effort, focus and intensity all have to improve this week, or LSU will be 1-1.